Sometime back I wrote a post on how to train for grading examinations. Having sat on the 4th and 5th dan panel in Brussels last week and as I am scheduled to be an examiner for the Irish National Grading this coming week end, I thought it might be useful to highlight some of the points that the panel will be looking for on the day.
The purpose of the kendo grading examination is to allow you to demonstrate what you have learned and what you are capable of. It is unlikely that you will pull something out of the bag that you can not do in your normal keiko. You need to have put in the quantity and quality of practice since your last grading to justify promotion. There are some people that treat the shinsa like a lottery – turn up often enough and your number will eventually come up. The chances are if you are doing the same things you did the last time you failed, you will fail again.
There are some excellent guides available to tell you step by step what to do for each grade, so this is just a quick overview of the points that catch an examiners eye:
• Chakuso – clean unfaded hakama and keikogi. Hakama should be the right length, keikogi wrinkle free at the back. Bogu should be tied correctly with men himo of the correct length. Shinai should be in good condition with no protruding tsuru or nakayui and the tsuba should reach the bottom of the tsuka.
• Entry and exit – make sure that you understand the pattern for entering and crossing the shinsajo operating at that grading. Either watch the people before you, or ask if you are in the first group.
• Sonkyo – bow correctly and make a strong confident sonkyo with a straight back. If you have knee problems tell the organisers and make an alternative salutation.
• Kamae – keep a strong kamae and make sure your left heel is off the ground.
• Full spirit – give yourself time to settle and make a strong kiai. Attack at the right opportunity with full spirit. If your opponent counters or stops you with his shinai, do not let it break the force of your attack. Do not show emotion at, or acknowledge your opponents successful attack, just go on to take or make the opportunity for your own technique.
• Correct posture – keep your posture straight, do not duck to avoid being hit.
• Ki-ken-tai-ichi – remember that your hands and feet should work together.
• Seme – take the centre befor you hit. If you can make your opponent move first and take debana waza, you should impress the panel.
• Zanshin – show good zanshin, do not showboat. Ensure that you turn and go forward to the correct distance after each attack.
• Most importantly – keep a clear mind and do not panic into attacking when there is no opportunity.